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the improvisor

the international journal on free improvisation


the improvisor festival ~  2010  
                post mordem what was...what happened...?



         the improvisor festival 
August 1-30, 2010 

                                   Celebrating the 30 year Anniversary  

  1. I am so happy to have this project completed now.  It was a brilliant and productive time for all participating artists and communities, from Birmingham and from around the South, particularly our guest artists in residence from New York, North Carolina, and Florida, and those who made concerts who came from Louisville, Athens, Chattanooga, Atlanta, Nashville, Gainesville, Panama City, Jackson, NYC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle. From Huntsville, Birmingham, Montevallo,  Montgomery, Florence & Tuscaloosa. From Italy!         Birmingham became a very inclusive crossroads for these artists to meet, and co-mingle with an interested audience from our community.
  2.       We raised awareness, that this music is a form of cultural recreation, that modern improvised music is an indicative cultural folk-form of our own times, and that it will one day be recognized as much a part of Alabama Folk Culture as bluegrass or blues.  It is a music which can be made by children, adults, professionals, and amateurs alike. It only requires a deeper attitude of listening and responding. It is not dominated by mainstream commercial interests. It is a musical expression of the people, personal, intimate, much like poetry. It can be manifest in music, spoken word, or dance and movement. It is an artistic attitude of “being in the moment” both as a practitioner and as an observer.  It takes concentration, and a willingness to be open to the unknown possibilities and potential that any event can manifest. It can be mundane, artistic, or spiritual. It is becoming a new language between those who create together, and those who observe.  
    –LaDonna Smith, Director & Producer



Loved it!  

The VAST spectrum of sounds combined with the high
streaming compression rate and the garbled phone signal gave an
alternative experience to all who listened and will listen.  An
in-depth study of what you are not supposed to need to
hear and what
gets added.  Si's laugh is also an added treat.  Listen to it here:

        Gene Ric, producer
       -the improv radio show


Hi La Donna-----Thanks for having us.We also had a great set at your house with Wally and Jill.
Wish you could have joined us.Another time!   Best, Ron  Heglin 

You managed another great fest with style and grace, hope to see youse down at my place.
,  Clifford McPeek

Greetings for Tuesday, and happy September tomorrow.  I hope you are recuperating from the fantastic event of the Improv Festival, I have heard and seen nothing but good things.  We have such a strong and unique community, everyone talks of that.
was a wonderful Festival indeed thanks to the Labors of LaDonna and so many others, and from seeing all the e mails, a significant event for all involved, as well as the art of Improvisation!   We welcomed new Improv family members and celebrated this art, made deeper and more exciting by the long history many of us have together, the caliber, unique quality, and infinite array of talents we all possess.   

It was so great to make art together, and you are on my mind a lot.  I was indeed very blue upon leaving B'ham after the show this weekend, afraid I would never see you guys again, but seeing the e mails and the connections made, I now know that we all have more great work to do in the future.

I was very happy to see you all, very blessed by the riches we share, and will miss you all until next time...which I hope is very soon! 
at voitre service always...
Deborah Mauldin


Hello there!
Thanks again for such a wonderful month of great performances and magical moments.
It is always a great pleasure to work with you - hopefully I the chance will arise again soon!!!!
Thank you again for everything!!!! 

Celeste LaBourde



     Thank you so much for hosting the opening of the improvisor festival!   iT'S  been amazing down here.. packed houses every night for a month.. and it was so great to launch everything from the Stone in NYC!   The line-up was terrific. A wonderful reunion. I'd just love to have some more leisure to catch up with you and Roger sometime. They're talking a series here.. ya'll just gotta come down sometime again soon! Thanks again,

Love and XOXOXOXo

Re:  THE STONE,  Opening Night AUGUST 1
Hi LaDonna,
Likewise, it was wonderful to see you.  I was so happy we could open the month that way.  We really made an effort to mix up the month - lots of contemporary classical notated stuff, countered with plenty of improv.  Crowds at the stone have been much better than usual here too. We got to play with Chris Cochrane, and will play with him yet again. he sounds fantastic.
I'd love to spend more time with you too.  But I'm not complaining... it was wonderful to see you for just a few minutes.  As you know, this curating thing is exhausting!
Annie Gosfield


EVERYONE ... lovely to have met & worked with you all. I wish I could have come out Saturday night - sorry not to have said "goodbye" to David & Juanita. Unfortunately, my right siatic nerve decided to go into a spasm, so I was rolling around on the floor with pain killers & heating pads etc! - I've never experienced anything quite like it & hope never to again! 

Stay in touch

luv Claire Elizabeth Barratt


Hey LaDonna,  

Thank you again for inviting me to be a part of this event! It was a gas being able to interact with everyone, and I only wish I somehow could have contributed more once I got there. But what’s written in my general email below is true: the memory of what we created together has given me something particular and special to carry forward, both in terms of inspiring me toward creating more work, and in regards to my attitude about the value of what I’ve been and am doing as an (improvising) artist.

So keep in touch…I too look forward to when we’ll next see/play with each other [and let people know when you get those gigs in NYC at The Stone or wherever].

Hope the last few Festival events go well!

Much love,
David Appel


Hello all,

Back in NYC...hard to believe I've left behind the whirlwind of great work
and play that we all whipped up over the past week and a half.

Thanks to everyone for a most memorable 11 days! It was fantastic to be part
of a (momentary) community of folks churning and struggling and moving and
grooving and howling our way into and through some sweet sounds and
vivacious dancing, figuring it all out as we went along. Which is of course
how it works.

At the risk of echoing what a number of others have already said, this was
incredibly energizing: to feel like what we do can make a difference on a
number of levels--even if seemingly only for an instant or an hour or two
(though it really always resonates much longer)--and to feel included as a
valued participant and contributor amidst a group of people who are riding
their/our lives in these many intriguing and intersecting directions. THANK
YOU. What was generated out of this time will for sure carry me on in more
than a few ways as summer shifts into fall.

And another shout-out to LaDonna for conspiring to bring us together and
orchestrating our various communions. Most excellent, LaD!

So don't be strangers, y'all. Looking forward to meeting up again in
whatever context as we mosey on down the road.




P.S.--And to quote one of the wise ones..."Yabba-dabba-doo!"


Thanks David,

   Your participation with us was very special. I appreciate your commitment from the very beginning, to come down here, and stake residency in this wonderful month long of the improvisor's crossroads.Surely, we'll see each other and play again soon.   - L.S.


Thanks to all of you, especially LaDonna,  for making those two weeks in Birmingham some of the happiest times of my life.  Meeting with old friends, making new ones, and creating some exquisite art made the trip a fantastic adventure.  Plus I got some  great recordings at the Zoo--Laughing Cookaburras and the mating calls of Crested Screamers were superb. 
-Doug Carroll  (see article)


Hi, Everyone,

Thanks for a wonderful 4 days, and to all who contributed work -- 
artistic, administrative, technical, and janitorial. We went through a
lot together. My experiences and the community you all form are very
dear to me. I feel inspired, exhausted, grateful to have been included,
and more committed to art and what it represents to the world -- fresh
thinking, desperately needed.

I am wondering how Laura is, Sycamore. I hope she is moved by all the
written notes, etc.

and speaking of moved, here's to the movement.

In solidarity,



The Improvisor Festival 2010 was like being on revolving carousel of celebration under a sky of shooting stars.   Each event was generously presented to varying degrees of improvisation that challenged the parameters of creative expression, in personal and shared ways.   The performances were exceptional and inspired, as were the audience members attending.  Difficult listening, weirdly kinetic, provocatively curious, engaging beginner's mind.  Overall, a deeply healing experience for me. 

With love and much appreciation for all the musicians, dancers, vocalists, poets, healers who embraced tenderness within the indescribable, moment by moment. 

Especially in awe of LaDonna Smith, Lee Shook and all those who were also behind the scenes producing and supporting. 

Neko Linda